Friday, January 30, 2009

Cheerleading in China. Yay!

One of the newest developments in the realm of Chinese sport has been the interest in cheerleading and cheers competitions. Since before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there has been a drastic increase in mainstream fascination, participation and expansion of the "sport". Although this seems like less of a blog-worthy development, it is still an interesting aspect of Chinese culture that is changing.

When I first arrived in China, there were very few, if any cheerleaders of any kind. Although there were forms of dance in traditional Chinese culture, there was definitely a lack of a performance art that combined athletic maneuvers, performance and peppiness. One can even make the argument that traditional Chinese culture frowned on this type of performance for it wardrobe and style.

Earliest forms of cheerleading in China were glorified jumping around of cute girls in relatively skimpy outfits during timeouts at Chinese Basketball Association (CBA - the Chinese national basketball league) games. These performances were often elementary and actually quite embarrassing to watch.

However, as the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears influence on pop dancing (as well as Korean and Japanese pop) changed somewhat Chinese pop singers, this influence has also translated into the increased recognition and better accented moves in cheer circles. In the past months, there has been a noticeable improvement in everything cheerleading related.

During the preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, cheerleading professionals from the US were invited to come to China to help mentor, train and develop girls who were going to perform at the games. In total, China trained 200,000 people to cheer in preparation for the Olympics. This national initiative really helped improve Chinese aspiring cheerleaders.

Without knowing how many Chinese schools have cheer programs, it is notable that many TV programs include cheer performances and competitions of many Chinese schools. There has been definitely an increase in peppiness.

While these programs are becoming more frequent, coverage of international competitions have also been broadcasted. As I am writing this post, I am watching the 2008 World Aerobics competitions on the main Chinese sports channel (CCTV5). Other events, including the US cheer championships usually held in Disneyworld, have also been given prime exposure to Chinese audiences.

Although this type of performance dance/sport is still in its infancy in China, it has been marked by notable investment and development (just as in every other industry in China).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Counterfitting the RMB

One of the most notable and influencial topics discussed by all of my family during CNY this year has been the availability of new high-quality counterfeit bills. China has great skill in duplicating things of all types - including electronics, dvds, shoes, bags, ect. Now it seems that someone has helped improve on counterfits that they have been passed into banks and atms. Anyone living in China deals with this issue everyday. There are fake 1 RMB coins all the way up to 50s being passed around in the population, but never at this rate and quality.

When talking to my Chinese uncle and his friends a couple of days ago, they hypothesised that the fake bills orginiated from Taiwan. They described it as a relentless competition between the mainland and taiwan. The goal is to access the others' financies and undermine the currency. They suggested that China has also done the same in Taiwan.

No matter what the origions are, it is still very intimidating to know that fake bills are so prevelent among the population. Friends in the banking industry who handle and count money everyday have also discussed the current situation and the different countermeasures the banks are trying to implement. However, when people depsoit the fake currency in the ATM, it is automatically recycled when others retreve money.

Here's a recent CNN report on the situation: